ISSUE | TAX HIKES

Council incumbents, stand ground now

I am appalled that City Council incumbents running for reelection are not acting on the city budget - especially its proposed 9.34 percent property tax increase - until after the May primary ("Council a no-go on tax boost," April 1).

Haven't we given the schools an extra $200 million for the past several years? What are they doing with the money? If they cared about education, they would make use of the stored books and other equipment just going to waste.

School leaders have not tried to balance the budget; they just claim they are broke. And because it's for the children, they get a blank check.

|John Mikula, Philadelphia

ISSUE | WHITE HOUSE RUN

Testing Hillary

The campaign to draft Elizabeth Warren may be in its infancy, but it's beginning to loom large, and rightfully so. Hillary Clinton absolutely needs to face at least one strong candidate in the primaries. Warren should be a welcome candidate for Democrats, and many Republicans could appreciate her stance against Wall Street's freewheeling ways and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

Warren's being in the race would assure a proper debate on financial regulation and income inequality.

|Andrew Mills, Lower Gwynedd

ISSUE | LEON BASS

How it begins

I was saddened to read of the passing of Leon Bass ("Soldier forever changed by the Holocaust," March 30). I had the privilege of hearing Bass speak twice. His message about the Holocaust was that it started with the little, mean-spirited things that people do to discriminate against others each day, and that it grew into something much bigger.

With his death coming now, it occurs to me that it's a shame that Indiana legislators - who just voted to enact a thinly veiled law that sanctions discrimination against gays - never got to hear Bass' reflections as a result of his U.S. Army experience in liberating the Buchenwald extermination camp.

|Thomas J. Lees, Lafayette Hill, tlees2@aol.com

ISSUE | BUILDING CODES

Tend to details and keep the walls standing

Even supposedly petty building regulations are there to protect the public, not to facilitate shoddy construction or incompetent demolition ("Far from shipshape," April 1). Lack of insurance can be catastrophic for workers, adjoining property owners, or passersby if there's an accident. Permits inform those living in the neighborhood of the scope of work, the owner's name, the construction company performing the work, and contact numbers. That's important. And if a builder overlooks or disregards a regulation, and the city Department of Licenses and Inspections fails to enforce it - something my experience has shown it does with unsettling regularity - what major regulations are going to be overlooked?

Even with my frustration over L&I's performance at times, I appreciate it when the department does its job and don't think it should be criticized for it.

|Joan Kyler, Philadelphia

ISSUE | SENATE '16

Sestak's Navy career still making waves

As a retired Navy officer, I am less inspired by candidate Joe Sestak than some ("Sestak putting heart and sole into run," March 31). I find the campaign's use of admiral when referring to Sestak troubling because it overstates Sestak's Navy experience.

Equally troubling is Sestak's sudden retirement. While he served honorably and should be proud, his removal from an important Pentagon billet by the naval operations chief and his unanticipated retirement have been dismissed by Sestak and supporters as part of the normal rotation of jobs that occurs every day in the military. Many Navy veterans, myself included, don't buy that story.

|Joe Eastman, Philadelphia, comservinit@yahoo.com

ISSUE | SPOTLIGHT ON SPEECH

Anti-Muslim ads undermine faith dialogue

The hate-filled ads that the American Freedom Defense Initiative paid to post on SEPTA vehicles seek to incite one religion against another ("Anti-Muslim ads on SEPTA buses to start Wednesday," April 1). These Islamophobic messages falsely portray Islam as anti-Jewish and pro-terrorism.

As a member of the Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation - a group of Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Muslims, and agnostics - I have grown to appreciate our commonalities and differences through dialogue and recognize the mutual respect inherent in each faith tradition. On behalf of the group, I applaud SEPTA in its legal fight to refuse to post these ads - although our group recognizes that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech even if it is hateful.

|Brenda Lazin, Philadelphia

Hearing from all sides right, if controversial

Rather than simply regurgitate the pro-Israel line, Swarthmore students elected to schedule a more inclusive roster of participants in their discussions ("Swarthmore group breaks from Hillel over dispute," March 26). These students are attending an educational institution that is actually producing thoughtful and reflective citizens.

|Sharon A. Bembery, Philadelphia